How is AV technology improving senior care and living environments?

AV technology can play a big role in supporting the care home and senior living sector, delivering more autonomy to residents, increasing comfort and safety and helping overstretched care staff.

Tim Kridel speaks to Dan Sanderson, senior business development manager for residential and hospitality at Crestron to find out more.

TK: What are some marketplace/business trends in the senior living market (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, etc.) that benefit pro AV? For example, the people moving into these communities today have spent a lot of their lives using technology, personally and professionally, such as video collaboration with colleagues or family. So I would think that means these communities must have the AV infrastructure and user devices to support all of the ways that residents want to interact with their friends and family.  

DS: Frankly, pro AV is the one area that’s not really a part of senior living developments. Residents generally have a functional knowledge of smartphones and tablets, and that’s most often how they stay in touch with family and friends. To that end, robust Wi-Fi is critical — for those connections and, naturally, a variety of other needs.


TK: Many residents have mobility issues. Is that driving demand for smart building systems such as motorised shades and speech-controlled lighting and thermostats? For the owners of these communities, is part of the business case that these technologies enable residents to do things on their own that otherwise would require staff help? An example might be residents using a touchpanel or speech control to lower the shades instead of calling for staff to do that. Maybe another benefit is that technology enables residents to do things on their own that otherwise might risk injury, such as fumbling for a shade cord and falling and breaking a hip.

DS: Absolutely – of course, this varies on a case-by-case basis. We’ve outfitted one facility where the residents are heavily disabled or seriously injured. They've lost the use of their hands, their limbs. So we use voice control to handle control of some basic functions: lights on, lights off, shades open, shades off. The residents also have crane lifting mechanisms that come over to the bed and assist them with trips to the bathroom and so on.

Beyond that example, there are broader solutions. In the UK, the pandemic revealed how technology could assist with social care — not only for the residents but also helping and assisting the caregivers. The sheer volume of care required to meet demand and the shortage of caregiving resources demonstrates a stretched healthcare service, which meant residents could be left in isolation for hours. That further adds to negative conditions such as poor mental health, mobility, and general well-being.

Technology cannot replace the shortfall in human resources but can assist with effective solutions that can support the needs of residents and caregivers, allowing more efficient management of time — time that’s better spent on the individual in need of care.


TK: This blog post covers some of the benefits of circadian lighting. In your experience, is this something that senior living community owners/operators recognise and are using? Or is it something that AV vendors and integrators need to educate them about?

DS: There was a stat in that blog post that came from a Harvard study: The right lighting appears to dramatically reduce falls in seniors, not necessarily because footpaths are lit in the night time, but because Circadian lighting cycles encourage better sleep. It’s one of the benefits of automation that dealers should be informed about. Automation is also incredibly effective when it comes to HVAC: when we find a comfortable temperature for a resident, maintaining that temp so no one needs to touch a thermostat is a great benefit.


TK: Anything you would like to add about trends, business opportunities for integrators or use cases or anything else? 

DS: There are many ways to achieve more effective solutions, all of which are terrific opportunities for integrators.

Solutions for seniors incorporate the fundamental needs that would already exist in any other project of a large scope, including:

  • Lighting
  • Power
  • HVAC
  • Shading

Controlling these systems more effectively offers excellent support for residents, whether that’s achieved via conventional analogue control, voice control, AI, or what have you.

Having the fundamental systems controlled efficiently under one platform allows enhanced features to be added using advanced algorithms and AI. These include:

  • Automated systems – Automating the day-to-day services removes the need for the residents to worry; these can be easily overridden with tweaks made and saved by the resident.
  • Behavioral Modelling – This describes the process of looking for aberrations in normal behavior and raising alerts when issues are found.
  • Over-air Fall Alerts – Room sensors remove the need for wearables.
  • Automated Medicine Dispensers – These devices ensure medication is dispensed efficiently — and correctly.
  • Automated Well-being and Wellness Management – This provides control of the environment to ensure well-being is monitored and adjusted as the resident or surrounding dictates.
  • Building Intelligence – Using building intelligence to drive energy efficiencies such as occupancy setback, turning systems off, or setting them back when spaces are unoccupied or at low occupancy. These solutions drive energy efficiencies whilst providing maximum output of services.
  • Air Quality and Particulate Monitoring – Air quality is paramount, so monitoring of air quality to ensure well-being provides residents and caregivers with the best environment to live and work in. Particulate analysis allows airborne viruses to be found earlier and, therefore, can be actioned upon to prevent spread.
  • Sterilising Systems – The right intelligent lighting solutions, HVAC, and control surfaces help us provide self-sterilizing spaces.

Recently the market has seen more Luxury Senior Living Schemes emerging. We’ve seen several that are targeted at the more affluent professional individuals based in and around London, UK. These schemes have promoted a luxury living environment that incorporates solutions to assist with all the facets and challenges of aging.

On the surface, it would seem these schemes should embrace new, emerging technologies, but after experiencing design information from recent tenders, the message is very different. The information on the surface mirrors that found in residential and hospitality designs, which vary in approach, philosophy, and end-user experience.

Typically, system designs represent a journey of years, not months, so the fundamentals need to be scalable and adaptable to keep up with the pace of the technology market. Crestron has recognised this and is answering that challenge with multiple solutions informed by our experiences in the residential, commercial, and hospitality segments. We understand how to create “future-ready” systems that can adapt. These technologies utilise existing IP infrastructures to maximise efficiency, deployment times, and scalable implementation of developing technologies.

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